That’s what Friends are for…

The Friends of Bruce Freeman Rail Trail
January 18, 2023

By Nathalie McCarthy – Correspondent

The harmony that one feels with nature along the almost-completed Bruce Freeman Rail Trail (BFRT) is a true measure of success for all those who have transformed this former railroad line into what it is today.

It was the vision of the late Bruce Freeman, state representative from Chelmsford, and it has become a reality. He “felt it was very important to have a trail where people of all ages and abilities could safely walk, bicycle and run.”

The Friends of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail represent the seven cities along the trail, all stops “on the old 25-mile New Haven Railroad Framingham and Lowell line.”  Lowell, Chelmsford, Westford, Carlisle, Acton, Concord, Sudbury and Framingham are all represented with over 800 members — a quarter of the members coming from the town of Concord.

Formed 20 years ago, the first thing that the Friends in Concord did was a feasibility study, which was possible due to the generous donations from over 400 families and a grant that helped reach that goal.

“The Friends hosted the original coordinating committee in 2008 to discuss rules, the development of the BFRT logo and the location of mile markers in all of the towns,” said Barbara Pike, the Membership Chair and primary contact for the town of Concord’s Friends, “The process has been done in phases since 2009.”

As Pike explained, “They support and promote the trail and have done a lot of work over the years working with the state legislature and advocating for construction at the state and local levels. Meetings, fundraising and hard work have been important to make this happen and included advocacy at the Picnic in the Park events, town parades, Earth Days, meetings with abutting neighborhoods and promoting passage at town meetings. The Community Preservation Act is a significant source of funding.

“In September at the Fowler Library in West Concord, the Friends organized a Community Summit attended by about 35 staff and residents from all seven of the BFRT towns. The primary agenda was to discuss and agree on a set of common rules that are to be used on the trail. The Friends have offered to supply replacement rules signs once all the towns have agreed on revised rules.”

The temporary terminus is located at Powder Mill Road, and the remaining half mile in Concord will begin construction later this year with the town of Sudbury, as they begin clearing in tandem with the beginning of their construction later this year.

The collaborative relationships between the Friends of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail and each individual town governments and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation have been instrumental in creating this incredible treasure for generations to come. 

“Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.”

Henry David Thoreau

Working with the Director of Planning and Land Management Marcia Rasmussen to make recommendations on safety in Junction Park at the West Concord train station is just one of the many joint efforts.

Pike said, “Rasmussen, the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail Advisory Committee and the friends have worked together over the past two decades to bring about both Phase 2C (already constructed) and 2B (including the bridge over Route 2.) The completion date for this section that connects Concord and Acton is still planned for May 2023.)

 “Maintenance such as downed branches is taken care of by the town of Concord’s Public Works and also done during volunteer trail maintenance days.”

Sitting on the bench over the Assabet River in Concord, one can certainly appreciate all that the Friends of the BFRT have volunteered so much of their time and effort to create. To benefit the trail and its users, the Friends of the BFRT are assisting with amenities such as benches and bike racks. At various intervals along the trail, there are pleasant places to stop, bike racks, bike tool stations in addition to interesting historical markers with the history of the railroad and the towns along the trail.

The website and newsletters provide interesting information such as details of each of the phases, and events such as the 20th Anniversary Celebration, Annual Solstice Bike Ride and ribbon cuttings. Useful information about the trail such as answers to questions about completion dates, updates on safety concerns, trail maps and parking information can also be found.

To join the Friends of the BFRT or to volunteer, fill out the form online or in the newsletter. For questions, the contact information for Concord Friends Barbara Pike and Nat Welch (Co-Chair of Concord’s BFRT Advisory Committee) can also be found online.